January 09, 2006

The Gay Blade

by peterb

There are two types of men in the world: those who buy electric razors, and those who actually need to shave.

Here's what happens to me when I use an electric razor. I plug it in, and turn it on. I hold it up to my beard and move it around. Nothing happens. I move it around some more, and apply a little pressure. I can hear the tips of some of my hairs being trimmed, but nothing else happens. I rub it around my face and neck really hard. Now I still have a full beard, but in addition, my neck is all red and bumpy. I have managed to get razorburn without actually managing to shave any hair off.

So for many years, I have made do with shower-shaving: I keep a Gilette Sensor (or Mach 3) in the shower, and shave there. This didn't give me a terribly good shave, but it was better than nothing.

Now, I have a better way of shaving. It has just one minor problem: it's making me feel really, really gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

The better way of shaving is by using a shaving brush, good shaving cream, and a double-edged razor. This sort of shaving did not used to be considered terribly homosexual. That it is, today, can be laid at the feet of one man: Corey Greenberg, of the impressively obsessive-compulsive ShaveBlog.

Corey is straight as an arrow, but he has made shaving queer by consistently, over a period of many months, writing paragraphs like this:

Despite the Wee Scot's diminutive size, its bristles splay out to a surprisingly wide spread when you mash this brush against your puss, and the exquisite lather just keeps coming and coming.

Rest assured, I'm not picking out an isolated example. Everything the man writes is like this:

So I soaked my...badger brush in hot water, gave it a little shake to reduce the water it held to just the right amount, and swirled the tips in the Nancy Boy's glistening white cream.

Shaving, even real shaving, was not always this way. The closest shave I ever got was from a barber who ran the local Calabresi numbers game. You don't know trust until you've let a man hold a straight razor to your throat. That's the hidden culture of barbers: these are the people men trust to do these things. There aren't many real barbers left any more. The ladies at Supercuts are plenty nice, but I wouldn't trust them to shave me any more than they'd trust me to do the flower arrangements for their weddings.

The other fascinating thing about the shavegeeks that Corey represents is that they are a mixture of the masculine and the feminine. They take what is an essentially feminine activity (and please, don't argue with me about this — if you're spending hours agonizing over whether the proportions of lanolin to aloe are right in some unguent, you might as well be wearing a dress) and bring to it the very male techniques of obsessively cataloging, collecting, and comparing. Remember what psu was saying about men obsessively measuring their TVs and stereos and comparing them? The shavegeeks are doing the same thing, only they're comparing the loft and thickness of badger brushes, or the firmness of silvertip hairs to best badger, or they're doing comparative surveys of razor blades and shaving soaps.

Please, God of the ancients. God of my people. God of the high places and low, hear my prayer. I am very, very happy that I have found a way to get a better shave. But please deliver me from obsession. Deliver me from becoming a shavegeek.

My friend Faisal is well down the road to shave-geekdom, and I have made no bones about ribbing him mercilessly about it. "Hey," I'll say to him in an instant message. "I just had a really homosexual shave." I'm pretty sure he is sick enough of me saying this that he's ready to choke me to death if I do it to him again.

But although he may try to reframe it as being "Euro," there is no escaping it. Shaving this way, today, is very, very gay.

And that's OK. Let a million pansies flowers bloom. The fact is, I am getting a closer shave than I ever have in my entire life. I don't have razorburn anymore. And massaging my face with the stupid badger brush feels nice. So if that means I am letting a little gayness into my life, without obsessing about it too much, I'm OK with that. Perhaps it means I can't go to Monster Truck Rallies, or something. I could live with that.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go play some more Shadow Hearts. I think I'm close to finding another Stud Card!

Additional Resources

  • Lots of shaving kit can be found at ClassicShaving.com.
  • I'm currently trying the Taylor of Old Bond shaving cream. They have a number of scents. I chose "shaving shop," which was more or less the only scent that doesn't require you to have been buggered at public school.
  • I am morbidly fascinated by the idea of disposable straight razors, like this. I'd try one, but I am still afraid I'd somehow manage to kill myself. Because I am not as good at shaving as the Calabresi numbers man.

Posted by peterb at January 9, 2006 03:31 AM | Bookmark This

I hate electric razors - find them really ineffectve and it's not like I have a beard of iron wool.

Disposable razors are a great way to give blood. When I forget my razor on trips, this is the inevitable default option and I always regret it.

Posted by Troy Goodfellow at January 9, 2006 04:13 PM

I guess I'm just lucky that electric razors have always worked for me. I spent way too much on a new one last year, but the convenience was well worth it.

I mean, good god. You've got a brush you use? I thought that was only in Bugs Bunny cartoons.

Posted by Thomas at January 9, 2006 04:41 PM

I've been using a brush with some decent but not too froo froo shaving lotion (the Italian Proraso) for about a year now and I really like it. I think the brush and the lotion make more of a difference than the razor, but I haven't tried a double edged razor. I'm using a regular Mach 3 which replaced the Sensor I had for about 20 years.

Posted by Steve at January 9, 2006 08:41 PM


I tried to imply (but I guess failed) that there are people for whom electric shavers work. I wish I was one of these lucky folks, because it would certainly be more convenient, but I'm not.

And yes, the brush thing is very Elmer Fudd. I kinda like it, though.

Posted by peterb at January 9, 2006 09:03 PM

That site is a riot. You are absolutely right -- every line is much gayer than the last. It must be deliberate -- his personal shaving dominatrix man, the brokeback mountain cream love scene, wanting to shave with as many things other than shaving cream as possible. It's some hoax parody of gay porn and we are being taken in.

Nevertheless, heterosexual shaving has always been singularly unfulfilling for me, and this lifestyle has me curious. I shall visit Taylors of Old Bond Street tomorrow (not far from my office, as it happens), and report back.

Posted by daw at January 9, 2006 09:17 PM

I'm with peterb. Electric razors do not work for my manly beard. I find that if i grow out my beard for a few weeks, it becomes easier to shave as I've unclogged all my pores. I've always fantisized about using a "real" razor and brush w/ cream. After reading this article, I am now motivated to take the plunge. Worst-case scenario is that I can re-use my razor as a weapon to force the software team to get critical customer bugs into our next software release.

Posted by davidh at January 12, 2006 05:12 PM

So I visited Taylor's of Old Bond Street, which is not on Old Bond Street at all. Vibe was kinda creepy/tacky -- mostly like a times square souvenir store but staffed by a race of people that have been serving the British aristocracy for many generations, and have consequently evolved in a sort of gollumish direction.

I have also now tried the double-edge shaving routine a few times and, while fairly pleasing and effective, I have to say it did not feel particularly gay. This despite my choosing lavender Taylor's shaving cream, which I thought would maximize the Oscar Wilde aspects. I'm also not getting the old English aristocracy vibe, or the macho old school JFK/Churchill vibe. On the whole, it's pretty much shaving.

I suspect the purported benefits with respect to the actual shave (over mach 3 + can of gel) are mainly that a nice brush & cream encourage, and an unforgiving razor forces, you to go really slowly and pay a lot of attention.

Posted by daw at January 18, 2006 05:01 AM

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